Thursday, December 16, 2010


Please be advised that the PHONE IN system will begin on January 6 and 7, 2011. This is for pay period 12/16/2010-12/31/2010.
  1. Click here for the RH Communication Plan. Please follow the steps that involve your region ie: Regional Facebook Pages, Regional Resource Home newsletters.
  2. Click here for the PHONE IN System directions.  The regions must notify all resource parents of the directions and explain them clearly to each resource parent that has a child in their home. This information should be provided to the resource parents during a home visit or sent directly to their home address by the regional RPS staff OR child FSW. Please do this immediately in order for all Resource Parents to receive proper notification.
  3. All new resource parents who have a child placed in their home should have received a PIN number via a letter from Fiscal. If they did not receive this notification they can contact Odessa at 615-253-6906 for their PIN as long as it was generated by the TFACTS system.
  4. Click here to find the January 2011 calendar.  These calendars should be sent and shared with all resource parents. The calendar can be found on the DCS webpage.
  5. Remind all resource parents of the new phone numbers.  NASHVILLE ONLY number is: 256-9718, this number can not be used for regions outside of Nashville.  DO NOT add a prefix such as 800 or 877 to this number as it will not link to the PHONE IN.  Outside of Nashville the number is:  1-877-318-5064. 

Haslam Names Kathryn O’Day Children’s Services Commissioner


O’Day Is Currently President/CEO of Child & Family Tennessee

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Governor-elect Bill Haslam today announced Kathryn “Kate” O’Day as Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.

O’Day has dedicated her entire professional life to children. She began her career as a youth counselor with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office in Florida. Before becoming President and CEO of Child & Family Tennessee, she was Vice President of Program Development and Evaluation for Children’s Home Society of Florida and Director of Program Services for Covenant House of Florida.

“After the accreditation of the Department of Children’s Services earlier this year, Kate is the person to build on the department’s recent successes,” Haslam said. “We as a state have an important responsibility to these children, and I’m grateful that Kate, who has staked her career on making children’s lives better, would join our team and serve.”

At Child & Family Tennessee, O’Day created a business-like management team and organizational model to ensure fiscal and programmatic accountability, which has helped the organization meet goals.

“I’m honored to be selected and to serve with Gov.-elect Haslam, and I’m looking forward to working with the dedicated staff at Children’s Services,” O’Day said. “The state budget presents some important challenges, and I’m excited to work with our community partners to meet those challenges.Together, we can achieve our mission for the safety and well-being of Tennessee’s children and their families.”

O’Day is a graduate of Leadership Knoxville, a co-chair of the Community Coalition for Domestic Violence in Knoxville, founding Chair of the Juvenile Court Assistance Board in Knox County, a former panel chair for the Foster Care Review Board in Knox County and a member of the Executive Women’s Association.

She has a Master of Social Work degree from Florida International University. O’Day is married to Steve Cuneo and has three grown children.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Jackson Sun: Improved DCS a tribute to Bredesen, Miller, caseworkers

November 12, 2010

When Gov. Phil Bredesen took office in 2003, the Department of Children's Services was in disarray. Today, the department is one of only seven in the country to be certified by the Council on Accreditation. As Bredesen prepares to leave office in January, he can be proud of how this department has transformed itself and the level of services it offers to some of the state's most vulnerable abused and neglected children.

Tennessean: TN Department of Children's Services shows progress, may soon exit court oversight

By Brian Haas

A judge decided in 2001 that Tennessee's children needed protection from the very agency tasked with protecting them. But nine years later, the group that sued for federal monitoring of the state's child welfare system says Tennessee is almost ready to break free of outside oversight.

The New York-based Children's Rights on Wednesday filed a plan in federal court that paves the way for the Tennessee Department of Children's Services to regain full control of its operations and policy without court monitoring. The plan would allow DCS to be free of the class-action lawsuit ruling if it can meet and maintain all plan goals for 12 straight months.

The move marks a dramatic turnaround in an agency that critics said once warehoused and mistreated abused and neglected children.

"When we filed this lawsuit back in 2000, this agency was grossly mismanaged, overburdened and out of control. It was routinely harming the very kids it was supposed to protect," said Ira Lustbader, associate director of Children's Rights. "I think the latest report really illustrates the progress DCS has made with strong leadership, adequate resources and a real commitment to reform for at least the past five to six years."

Gov. Phil Bredesen said in a statement that the plan is a testament to the state's hard work in overhauling a once-broken system.

"We set out to do the hard work it would take to reshape this department, and today DCS is one of the few state child-welfare departments in the nation to become accredited," Bredesen said. "As we begin preparing to exit from the consent decree, we can mark this as one of the significant accomplishments we have made in Tennessee."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

East Region COA Celebration

On September 21, 2010, the East Region took part in their COA Celebration at Lenoir City Park in Loudon County.  This was an opportunity for staff from all over the region to come together to celebrate achieving accreditation, as well as the region’s many accomplishments over the past year, while enjoying great food, fun, and camaraderie.  The theme chosen for this celebration was “tailgating” – after all, it is football time in TN!  Supervisors were asked to utilize their tailgate to recognize each of their staff and their accomplishments over the past year since being accredited.  A cake decorating contest was also held, and several teams signed up to participate in this event.  Finally, staff members were encouraged to wear a shirt with their favorite team (football, basketball, etc.) logo.

It was great to see the large number of staff that turned out, as well as the number of team “tailgates” that were designed and set up for the event.  There were team t-shirts and jerseys everywhere, and a couple of the region’s teams had actually designed their own t-shirts showcasing their favorite team….their own DCS team!  Commissioner Miller and Ted Martinez were on hand from Central Office to present the region with their COA Accreditation plaque, as well as COA Accreditation window decals to display in each county office.  After presenting the region with their plaque and window decals, the Commissioner was presented a UT Vols stadium seat cushion that had been signed by staff in the region.  The East Region RA, Julie Rotella, was also presented a trophy in appreciation of the “coaching” and support provided to the region during the pursuit of accreditation. 

Following the presentations, Commissioner Miller and Ted judged the cake decorating contest for the region.  Who knew that the region had such creative cake decorators!?!  There was a “drug bust” cake, which took first place, a cake in the shape of the DCS/Well Being “Lifts them up!” logo complete with the apple, a cake displaying children’s progression from abuse/neglect to permanency, COA “touchdown” cakes, cakes in the shape of footballs and football fields, and a variety of others.  The region also awarded first place to the Anderson County teams for best tailgate.

Needless to say, this event was a great way for the East Region staff to celebrate achieving accreditation and recognize those accomplishments made over the past year since being accredited.  A very big thank you also goes out to Commissioner Miller and Ted for joining East in this celebration and for serving as judges!  It was definitely a fun-filled day for all! 

By Charles Baumgardner


The Olympic sport of table tennis, more affectionately known as ping pong, and formerly played mostly in basements and carports has smoldered and received little attention here in the southeast for years.

It is time for a change.  Thanks to Mr. Joseph Newgarden and his Newgy Industries, students at the Taft Youth Development Center can now enjoy table tennis on the latest equipment and receive training in the fundamentals of the sport.  Furthermore, this equipment and training is the identical equipment and training being provided to some of the best high schools in the state under the same program as for Taft.

Mr. Newgarden has devoted a lifetime to elevating the sport of table tennis. He is known, not only across this country, but he has been a major contributor to table tennis in Europe, Asia, and even third world countries.

Fortunately for Taft, Mr. Newgarden’s passion for table tennis and promotion of table tennis has led him to the Taft Center.  He has now offered resources to the Center for the establishment of table tennis programs there.  His Taft offer was made and accepted by the forward-looking administration of Mr. Robert Bowen, Superintendent of Taft.

Mr. Newgarden has now assigned the development, establishment, and execution of table tennis programs in East Tennessee to Mr. Bill Neely.  Mr. Neely has an impressive table tennis resume including gold medals in the District and State, and National Senior Olympics.  Additionally, he has won multiple gold medals in the U. S, Open, U. S. Closed, International Veterans, and Huntsman World Senior Games.  These include Singles, Doubles, and Mixed Doubles competitions.  His total medal count and other awards since he resumed table tennis in 1994 is more than 190 after an absence of 31-years..

The Taft program is unlike any other in the State’s history:  Thousands of non-government dollars in new equipment and training, free of charge are offered, requiring only that they play under the prescribed structured program of learning.  The administration is genuinely ecstatic at this offer, which provides another option for improved self esteem, as well as health and well being through an enjoyable physical activity; one which can be used throughout their lives.

The program provides, free of charge to Taft, all of the equipment and training necessary for the formation of solid programs to augment physical education in the Center.  The students are encouraged to use the equipment at any time approved by the administration.  There are several creative ways in which the equipment can be used.  We leave that up to the Administration.

The only conditions for receiving this equipment are that:
  • The equipment be used as described in the proposal.
  • The equipment be maintained and cared for.
  • The schools accept the training in the use and care for the equipment
  • Competitions be held (in class, inter-class, and at some point, with outside entities).
  • All competitive play be recorded on match sheets provided by Newgy.
  • The match sheets be forwarded to Newgy for processing of ratings.
The initial delivery of equipment for teacher training, for each schools includes:
  • Three tournament-grade tables. (Originally only two were promised.)
  • 10-rackets (Beginning level)-competitive rackets are personal, such as tooth brushes, and should be purchased later by the players after they settle on their own style of play.)
  • One-gross of balls (40-mm).
  • Fifteen barriers.
  • One challenge ladder set.
  • Two-hundred match sheets
  • Robots, not delivered at this time. (Need and quantity to be determined later.)
This equipment will be delivered to Taft at 1:30 pm CST on September 16.
The next step is to schedule and train the teachers to teach the sport to the students.

Other equipment for teaching the students will follow after the teachers have been trained and the additional needs have been assessed.

Table tennis, at best, is only fledgling sport on the national level.  Mr. Newgarden has plans to correct this inequity.  This will take time, but we all have heard how a long journey begins. There are currently several colleges who have recognized this and have established table tennis as a sports program within their institutions.  A few are even giving sports scholarships to skilled and deserving athletes.  This, I believe, is a preview of the future.

It is Mr. Newgarden’s greatest desire that every person in the United States have access to table tennis and that they play for health, improvement, and enjoyment.  For a brief profile of Mr. Newgarden, a USATT Hall of Fame member, go to, click of “features”, click on “hall of fame”, scroll to “Newgarden, Joe”.

By Scot Shanks

Exit Strategy Marks Beginning of the End of Brian A.

Federal Court Filing Recognizes Landmark Changes at DCS

NASHVILLE  -- Today, the Tennessee Attorney General, on behalf of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, and Children’s Rights, Inc., entered a joint filing in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee that recognizes the sweeping reforms that have bettered the lives of Tennessee’s most vulnerable citizens and plots out the final tasks the department must accomplish before exiting the Brian A. class action lawsuit.

Since 2000, DCS has operated under a federal consent decree negotiated with New York-based Children’s Rights, Inc., which sued the state over its poorly functioning foster care system.

“Public-child welfare reform was a task that this administration inherited and one that we committed to improving,” said Governor Phil Bredesen. “We set out to do the hard work it would take to reshape this department, and today DCS is one of the few state child-welfare departments in the nation to become accredited. As we begin preparing to exit from the consent decree, we can mark this as one of thee significant accomplishments we have made in Tennessee. My thanks to Children’s Rights and the employees of DCS who have worked together to improve the system of care for our state’s most vulnerable children.”

“I am very proud of the DCS employees with whom I work,” said Commissioner Miller. “In every county office, our staff, our partners and our resource parents have made the lives of Tennessee’s foster children so much better. Even with these improvements, though, protecting children will always be difficult and sometimes heartbreaking. We know that there is always more that we need to do.”

The Brian A. consent decree established a path to reform the department. Since Governor Bredesen appointed Commissioner Miller in late 2003, DCS has transformed itself, with the active cooperation, guidance and assistance from Children’s Rights and from the Technical Assistance Committee, a group of nationally known child-welfare experts who serve as federal court monitors of the Brian A. consent decree.

The decree set out a series of benchmarks that the department must reach before exiting the suit. Since then, DCS has dramatically improved outcomes for children who come into custody. Siblings, for instance, are placed together far more often. The department has had great success in shifting its resources away from congregate-care settings in favor of family placements. Adoptions freeing children from state custody, which were below 200 annually in 1996, are now running at about 1,000 a year. Case loads have been reduced. Salaries for case managers have improved. A consortium of universities across the state now offer enhanced education and training for those who are dedicating their careers to public child welfare in Tennessee.

By recognizing those tasks that have been accomplished, the department can now focus on finishing those that remain.  These efforts include working even harder on serving the needs of older foster youth and on refining the department’s engagement with foster parents.

The agreement requires the department to meet every provision in the consent decree and to maintain those provisions for 12 months before the department can exit the lawsuit.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Knox Trick or Treat

Dave Hall, SS TL and his family

Pam Keene, CPS TL as Sasha

2nd Place Team - SIU and their version of the Wizard of Oz
Winning Team - Well Being Unit's portrayal of the Wizard of Oz

John McDonald

The JJ Unit as Detention residents

Jacob Akrom, CPS FSW

MSW Carolyn Kiser and her new grandbaby

Edana Boney. CPS FSW and her children
The Knox DCS Office underwent a transformation on Friday, October 29, 2010 as teams decorated their work areas and employees wore costumes to celebrate Halloween with our foster children. More than 150 foster children, as well as the children of DCS employees came through the office from 9 AM to 4 PM to trick or treat. No one left without a bag or bucket full of candy. A friendly decorating contest was held between the teams with Well Being claiming first place. SIU took second and Gary Brooks' team came in at third. In the individual costume contest, Casey Dockery, Transportation Officer, took the first place honors as the Tin Man; second place went to Pam Keene, CPS TL, as Sasha; and the third place award was garnered by Carol Lowdermilk, Health Advocacy Representative, as the Talking Tree from the Wizard of Oz.

The White House Recognizes National Adoption Month

November 01, 2010

Presidential Proclamation--National Adoption Month

Giving a child a strong foundation -- a home, a family to love, and a safe place to grow -- is one of life's greatest and most generous gifts.  Through adoption, both domestic and international, Americans from across our country have provided secure environments for children who need them, and these families have benefited from the joy an adopted child can bring.  Thanks to their nurturing and care, more young people have been able to realize their potential and lead full, happy lives.  This year, we celebrate National Adoption Month to recognize adoption as a positive and powerful force in countless American lives, and to encourage the adoption of children from foster care.

    Currently, thousands of children await adoption or are in foster care, looking forward to permanent homes.  These children can thrive, reach their full potential, and spread their wings when given the loving and firm foundation of family.  Adoptive families come in many forms, and choose to adopt for different reasons:  a desire to grow their family when conceiving a child is not possible, an expression of compassion for a child who would otherwise not have a permanent family, or simply because adoption has personally touched their lives.  For many Americans, adoption has brought boundless purpose and joy to their lives.  We must do all we can to break down barriers to ensure that all qualified caregivers have the ability to serve as adoptive families.

 Read the full Presidential Proclamation here

Resource, Adoptive, and Guardianship Parent Payment Message from the Commissioner

Dear Resource, Adoptive, and Guardianship Parents:

I hope this letter finds you doing well and taking pleasure in the autumn season.  As the days become shorter and move by at a faster pace, we cannot forget that the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays will soon be here. Just as each season brings change, we are also experiencing our share as we transition to a new child welfare information system called the Tennessee Family and Child Tracking System (TFACTS).  For many years we utilized a computer system called TN-Kids to manage our electronic files for the children and families (biological, resource and adoptive) that we serve.  Several weeks ago, the Department converted into TFACTS; and we fully expect this system to improve the way that we provide and track our day-to-day services.  But, like any change that occurs, we have experienced some “bumps in the road”.  

One of the improvements in our TFACTS system is that we can now generate payments to resource/adoptive parents and providers directly from one computer system (in the past this has required multiple computer systems).  With this change of business, it has resulted in some families experiencing difficulty with foster care board rate and subsidy payments being paid timely and paying correct rate amounts.  If your family has been involved in any of these problems, we want to offer a sincere apology to you.  Many of these problems were as a result to the conversion to the new system and unpreventable.  At this time, we are confident that we have identified all of these families that have been affected; and that we are resolving each individual issue and getting payments processed.  The corrections to each identified problem within the system should allow timely payments going forward; but if your family has experienced or experiences problems with payments in the future, we are asking that you contact us at 1-866-576-4412 to share the problems that you are experiencing. This line is being set-up to deal directly with any payment issues.   As you leave a message, please share the county that you live in and the names and dates of birth of the children that you are experiencing problems with.  Once leaving a message, you can expect a return call within 24 hours to follow-up.  If you like, you can contact the local office, but in order to address your concerns quickly, we would ask you to use the number above.  The last thing that we would want is for families to miss an opportunity to bring this to our attention and allow it to create larger problems for you and the children in your home.  In addition, I want to share that we are temporarily postponing the use of the PHONE IN system for foster care board payment verification.  Payments will be able to be generated on schedule without the use of this system; and when we are ready to resume this process, we will contact you to ensure that you have the needed pin numbers for children in your home and have the proper instructions.

As stated earlier, we are confident that we have gotten resolution on all back payments that have been created at this time, and we want to make sure that you assist us in identifying and resolving any that might happen in the future.  Just as we appreciate your patience with us during this transition, we are most thankful of your decision to provide support to Tennessee’s children by giving them temporary and permanent homes and likewise want to provide a comparable level of support to you. 

Dr. Viola Miller
Dept. of Children’s Services

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Performance Management – Striving for Success!

In the field of social work, we all want to succeed in our work with children and families.  But, what is considered “success” for DCS and how is it measured?  The definition of “success” is found in the DCS mission statement, “Our mission is to empower families and support community safety and partnerships to help ensure safety, permanency and well being for children.”  Safety, permanency, and well being…those are the measures of our success.  If we can assist families in achieving those outcomes we have succeeded.

A new initiative is being launched that will assist regional leadership (RA/DRA/TCs) in achieving those outcomes to ensure success.  This initiative is a new performance management process.

So, what is performance management?  Performance management is an ongoing process of communication between a supervisor and an employee that occurs throughout the year in support of accomplishing the strategic goals of an organization.  This process entails setting and aligning goals; coaching and developing employees; providing informal feedback; formally evaluating performance; and linking performance to recognition.  When effectively carried out, performance management helps employees understand the nature and quality of their performance and identify what they need to do to improve as well as inspire them to do so. Most importantly, effective performance management helps employees know that their contributions are recognized and acknowledged, which assists in motivating them towards success.  A robust and effective performance management process will provide a foundation for continuous improvement and achievement of state, regional, and team performance goals, which will translate into success for DCS.

So, what is the purpose of performance management?  The purpose is to improve the quality of supervision, provide more goal-focused professional development, and enhance accountability. In so doing, children and family outcomes will improve since current research suggests that some of the most important factors contributing to improved child and family outcomes are quality supervision, a well-trained workforce, and a system for consistent accountability.

The tools utilized in a performance management process are an important factor in ensuring an effective process that achieves its intended purpose.  The existing performance management tools, such as the Job Performance Plan (JPP), Monthly Performance Briefings (MPB), and Performance Evaluations (PE) are not currently assisting employees in reaching their maximum performance potential or helping regions in achieving their outcomes due to their lack of integration and standardization.  For example, JPPs for the same service position vary from region to region and are not consistent agency-wide; competencies are not standardized to assist supervisors with directing and focusing professional development efforts, and performance goals are not integrated into the performance management process to guide regional, team and individual improvement efforts.  JPPs for direct service positions are being revised to reflect a competency based model, but the goal is that all positions within DCS will have a competency-based JPP.

What we currently possess is not a performance management process but a performance tracking system – a system that looks back at what we have achieved, and records performance.  What is needed is an integrated system that assists supervisors in not just tracking performance, but in recognizing and developing both performance and professional development needs so that the outcomes of permanency, safety and well being can be achieved.  This is how success will be reached.

As a result, the following regions - Davidson, Upper Cumberland, South Central, Northeast, Southwest, and Tennessee Valley - are currently learning how to integrate the existing tools into a comprehensive, competency based performance management process, which is built upon a well-researched frame endorsed by the federal government and by national child welfare experts.  Regional leadership is learning how to systematically use data in order to identify and support regional and organizational performance goals as well as improve child and family outcomes.

We all want to succeed.  A renewed focus on employee performance, outcomes, and the measures needed to track success will assist us all in seeing children reunited with families, achieving timely permanency, and children being maintained safely in their living situations.  Now that is true success!

Kevin Walker
Program Specialist
TCCW - Learning and Staff Development

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Speak Up For Yourself!: Tennessee Youth Forum

WHAT: The Tennessee Youth Leadership Forum is a 4-day leadership training for high school students with disabilities from across the state, sponsored by the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities. Selected Student Delegates will participate in small group discussions, attend presentations by national and local speakers, tour the Capitol and meet with a legislator. The goal is for students to learn to speak up for themselves, to begin giving serious thought to their lives after high school, and to develop skills related to becoming leaders in their communities.
WHEN: early July, 2011
WHERE: on a college campus in Middle Tennessee
COST: training, meals and sleeping rooms are covered by the program. Travel will be reimbursed approximately two weeks after the program.
Students must complete the attached application in its entirety, which also includes essay responses and letters of recommendation. In addition, all applicants will be interviewed by phone or in person as part of the acceptance process. Application deadline is February 1, 2011.
For any other information, or for a hard-copy of the application, please contact:
Ned Andrew Solomon
Director, YLF

No Phone In for October 21 & 22

There is NO PHONE IN this week for resource parents.  Dates of 10/21 and 10/22.  The PHONE IN system is still having technical difficulties.  Please advise ALL YOUR RESOURCE PARENTS today that the system is still down.  ALL Resource Home payments will be generated via TFACTS.

PERSONAL IDENTIFICATION NUMBERS:  PIN letters have been sent to most new resource parents via Fiscal.  However there are some resource parents who have not received  a PIN.  They can call me at 615-253-6906 in order to check if they are on the list here at Central office.  We are still waiting on a updated list from Fiscal of our newest resource parents and their PINs.

Thank you for your continued advocacy for DCS resource families!


Friday, October 8, 2010

NYT: New York Missed or Ignored Signs on Girl Who Died

New York Missed or Ignored Signs on Girl Who Died

A 4-year-old Brooklyn girl who weighed 18 pounds when she died in September appears to have gone months without a visit from child welfare workers assigned to monitor her well-being, despite indications that she could be at risk, New York’s child welfare agency revealed on Tuesday.

“We needed to do more to help,” said John B. Mattingly, the commissioner of children's services. The agency offered a wrenching glimpse into the final months of the girl, Marchella Pierce, whose home care, it said, was “grossly inadequate.” It also found that her mother beat her with a videocassette case for punishment and tied her to a bed “for substantial periods of time.”

In a preliminary report released at a City Council hearing, the agency, the Administration for Children’s Services, provided its most detailed look yet at the events that preceded the death of Marchella, whose bruised and emaciated body was found in her family’s Bedford-Stuyvesant apartment on Sept. 2.

Read more here

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Foster Parents: No October 6 and October 7 phone-ins only

Due to a small glitch in the Phone-in System, FOSTER CARE BOARD PAYMENTS WILL BE MADE DIRECTLY OUT OF TFACTS.  No phone-in is necessary. 

If you have immediate questions, please call your Resource Parent Support worker.

Thanks so much for your patience.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Resource Parent Phone In update

 We want to clarify the payment process as TFACTS assumes payments for our resource parents.  Many of you have questions about this process and conflicting information is being delivered.   Please call us if you have further questions, 615-253-6906. 

Resource parent phone-in will occur between September 3rd and September 7th.  There are no changes in these dates or the process on those two days. You will phone in as you have in the past.

Resource parents do not phone in on September 21st or September 22nd.  During these September dates, RPS workers will work with regional fiscal Directors to assure payments for special or extraordinary rates are entered into TFACTS accurately; all regular rates will be automatically completed within TFACTS.  New phone-in calendars will be posted on the web site. Please refer to the calendars as future dates have been changed. 

The first TFACTS phone in time period will be October 6, and 7.  The letter being sent to all DCS resource parents will outline this process specifically.  The changes that will occur are the children ID’s and the phone numbers for phone in.

Central Office has developed a letter for all resource parents that will have each child’s ID number and an explanation of the process. 

  • These letters will be delivered to each region and it will be the region’s responsibility to get these letters to resource parents.  
  • It is expected that each region will have a point person to coordinate and document the delivery of the letters. Regional RPS will be the point of contact if a resource parent has any question.  Any letters that are not deliverable will be returned to the regional/local office, RPS will be expected to correct the address or hand deliver the letters during their monthly resource home visit.  These letters MUST be received by the resource parents no later than 9/15/2010.
  • Any address updates need to be entered into TFACTS by the RPS unit.
  • Regions should include this information in their regional newsletters.  
  • Post this information on your DCS regional Facebook page.
  • This information will be added to the TFACA website and the DCS website by Central office staff.

 John Johnson, Beth Kasch and Odessa Krech

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Slate: Children and Stress

The new science on chronically harsh and conflict-ridden households.

. . . Here's where the science is producing fresh news. Recent work in this area points to three main conclusions.

First, less-extreme harsh environments still lead to physical health problems. Children don't have to be abused in a strict legal sense to suffer lasting harm.

Second, such harsh environments can be produced by multiple factors that individually don't seem that significant but can influence one another in a snowball effect. For example, low-level conflict between parents that continues a bit longer than usual can lead to changes in how they talk to their child, and a little more edge and stress in the parent's voice can increase child misbehavior, such as more noncompliance. That push-back from the child grates with special force on a parent's nerves that are already raw because of some added problem, like real or threatened loss of a job.

Everyone's reactions go up a notch, with raging parents and whiny children egging each other on in an ascending spiral of stress. Such things normally happen in most homes without long-range effect, but they are usually short-lived. When the stressors continue for weeks and months, are a little more intense than usual, and seem to become a way of life, significant psychological and physical problems are more likely to emerge. No one knows exactly how much stress will do it. Even if we did identify a tipping point, it would vary for each family and individual based on many other influences—such as, for instance, other sources of emotional support in each person's life.

Third, researchers have made progress in understanding the precise nature of the connections between the psychological conditions in which a child is raised and the heightened risk of disease later in life and early death. One view has been that growing up in harsh environments makes a person more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as smoking, excessive drinking, and risky sexual practices, thereby make children from such homes more likely to have some of the diseases mentioned previously. Maybe these kids grow up to be less healthy just because they do more things that we already know are bad for you. But even if that's true, it's not the whole story. The research shows that stress reactions and hormone and neuroendocrine responses all by themselves, independent of risky habits like smoking or heavy drinking, are different among people with early exposure to stress.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

UT's Daily Beacon: Turnaround evident in Tennessee child welfare

Turnaround evident in child welfare

Staff Reports - 
Tuesday, August 10, 2010 issue

Staff Reports
Tennessee has reduced the number of children in its foster care system by 34 percent since 2000, while providing more effective help to families, according to a study released by Casey Family Programs.
The study shows the number of children in state custody in Tennessee has fallen since 2000 from 10,144 to 6,702 in 2009. In addition, Tennessee has decreased the number of children in long-term foster care, and the rate of children in out-of-home placements is now below the national average. At the same time, recurrences of abuse and neglect in children have decreased, indicating the safety of reform efforts.
The study was conducted to share the examples of states and counties that have been successful in child welfare reform. It outlines the way the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services has worked with Youth Villages, its largest private provider, to bring about reform. Casey Family Programs is the nation’s largest operating foundation focused entirely on foster care and improving the child welfare system.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Grants Training in Nashville, TN - October 7-8, 2010

The State of Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, Research and Strategic Planning Division and Grant Writing USA will present a two-day grants workshop in Nashville, October 7-8, 2010.  In this class you'll learn how to find grants and write winning grant proposals.  This training is applicable to grant seekers across all disciplines.

Click here for complete event details.

Beginning and experienced grant writers from city, county and state agencies as well as nonprofits, K-12, colleges and universities are encouraged to attend.

Multi-enrollment discounts and discounts for Grant Writing USA returning alumni are available.  Tuition payment is not required at the time of enrollment.

Tuition is $425 and includes all materials: workbook and accompanying 420MB resource CD that's packed full of tools and more than 200 sample grant proposals.  Seating is limited, online reservations are necessary.

Complete event details including learning objectives, class location, graduate testimonials and online registration are available here.

Cathy Rittenhouse
Grant Writing USA

Dr. Lisa Webb-Robins
TN Department of Economic and Community Development
Research and Strategic Planning Division

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Send us your nominations for Parents of the Year

It’s time once again to send in your nominations for Foster Parent of the Year, Kinship Parent of the Year, Adoptive Parent of the Year, Staff Person of the Year, and Association of the Year.  Please send us the names of those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty over the past year to help those in need. Awards will be presented at the 2010 TFACA Fall Conference. The final date nominations will be accepted is August 9, 2010.

Click here for  nomination information.

Click here for nomination form.

Odessa Krech

Mark Your Calendars

The 2010 Tennessee Foster and Adoptive Care Association Conference is on the horizon:

Sept. 17-19 at the Sheraton Music City Hotel.

Click here for your own copy of the brochure, in the handy Portable Document Format.

Click here for this year's online registration. (The deadline is August 15.)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wilder’s Weight Loss Challenge

Michelle Sangster, Keith Waldron, and Kimberly Boone
On April 1, 2010, 19 staff members at John S. Wilder Youth Development Center took the weight loss challenge.  On July 1, the challenge ended, and the total combined weight loss was 228 pounds.  The overall weight loss winner was Keith Waldron who lost 50 pounds in 64 days.  George Hale came in a close second with 44 pounds lost.  

Special thanks to Kimberly Boone, Michelle Sangster and Emily Harville for their organization of the event.  Another event is planned to begin in August and an idea of challenging other institutions is in the works.

Good job to all the participants, keep up the good work and encourage someone to improve their health.

Guide to New Legislation

Each year, the Tennessee General Assembly makes changes to the law that impact our work at DCS.  As DCS staff, it is critical that we know when changes have been made and fully understand their impact to those we serve.  This year, we have developed a report which groups changes in the law by program area. 

 We hope this makes it easier for you to identify the changes which most directly impact your work.  (We have also added hyperlinks to the Public Chapter number so you can quickly view the legislation in its entirety.)

Get your copy of the 2010 legislative rundown here.

Aaron Campbell
DCS Legislative Director

Thursday, July 15, 2010

COA. It's Time to Revisit!

We have been on such a exciting Journey to Accreditation for the past  five years.   Having seen the evidence of how the COA standards of best practice have influenced the work we do and how we provide services to children and families, everyone should be extremely proud of their role in making COA accreditation of DCS a reality. 

Now,  it is time to begin to think about Reaccreditation.  Plans are underway for our Maintenance of Accreditation phase and the development of resources to support each region as we prepare DCS for reaccreditation.   Gathering a group of trained Peer Reviewers who can assist their regions with those preparations will be critical to our future success.   In that regard, plans are being developed for a COA Volunteer Peer Reviewer training that will be conducted in Nashville in early August.   For those of you who are not really sure about their role, Peer Reviewers volunteer their time and expertise to participate in COA's accreditation process in agencies across the country.  They receive no monetary compensation and are reimbursed only for the expenses incurred related to the site visit.  According to COA data, each peer on average contributes more than 50 hours per site visit in familiarizing himself or herself with the organization's self-study, in carrying out on-site activities, assessing compliance, and in completing the report. 

The Initial Peer Reviewer Training will be a one-day onsite training preceded by three self-paced trainings and learning assessments.   In order to be eligible to become a Peer Reviewer, you must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • A graduate degree in a human service discipline, or a non-human service degree and service management experience
  • At least five years of continuing management experience. This should include experience in budgeting, CQI, governance, or other administrative responsibilities. 
  • All newly trained Peer Reviewers are required to accept a site visit assignment within 90 days of completing training.

If you meet the eligibility criteria and you are interested in becoming a COA Volunteer Peer Reviewer, please contact by close of business Friday.   We still have three class slots available for staff from the regions.

Brenda B. Bell

Adoption Assistance Update

July 15 -- All but 521 adoption assistance payments processed successfully this morning.  Payments will be deposited into bank accounts tomorrow (for those who receive payments via ACH).  Those receiving paper checks should receive them one day late as well (Saturday, Monday at the latest depending on their location.)  

The department is working diligently to process the remaining 521 adoption assistance payments.  


Erika Conwell, MSSW
Office of Child Permanency

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

First Pay Run for Adoption Assistance Payments Is Delayed

Due to unforseen reasons, adoption assistance subsidy payments for the first pay run this fiscal year are going to be delayed.  The pay run was scheduled to be complete by July 15th, but at this time the Department of Finance & Administration is still processing payments through Edison. 
We do not have a date of when the adoption assistance payments will be made to adoptive parents, but our hope is that subsidy payments will go out the earlier part of next week.  As the Office of Permanency, Division of Foster Care & Adoption and the Office of Finance and Program Support learn more information from F&A about the target date for payment, information will be shared with regional staff working with adoptive parents who receive adoption assistance payments.   
As you receive these calls, please be respectful,responsive and empathetic to the challenges this creates for our adoptive parents.  Our hope is that will be resolved quickly and that this delay creates limited complications for any of our adoptive parents affected.

Please direct any calls concerning late subsidy payments for adoption assistance to the regional adoption assistance designee.  Contact names and phone numbers are listed below.
Erika Conwell, MSSW
Office of Child Permanency 

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Gratitude at the Mountain View Banquet

On June 21, 2010, Mountain View YDC held its annual Volunteer Appreciation Banquet.  This year’s theme was an “Attitude of Gratitude”. Our guests of honor were all the volunteers who donate resources and countless hours of service to the students at Mountain View.  Our special musical guest was the choir of Martha Davis Baptist Church of Jefferson City. The distinguished guest speaker was Jefferson County Juvenile Judge Ben Strand, whose message was one of thanks to all of the Mountain View Volunteers who selflessly demonstrate the their volunteer spirit through work with our students.  Culinary Arts teacher Robert Adams and his students amazed us yet again with ambrosial cuisine and desserts.
Special thanks and recognition go out to CM 3 Roxanne Bowen, Volunteer Coordinator David Bugg, ASA Kathy Ridenour, Food Service Manager Robert Adams, and CM 3 Don Burnette for their hard work in making this year’s banquet a festive occasion.

Awards were presented to the following volunteers and organizations for outstanding service and contributions to our program:

Partnership Award:
Smoky Mountain Knifeworks
Bib Boys of White Pine

Pioneer Award
People Serving People
Allen Ramey Volunteer of the Year
Mount Zion Church of Knoxville

Steve Collier

Congratulations, Annakiya!

Annakiya Sauda

Cheatham County's Annakiya Sauda is the AdoptUSKids' Caseworker of the Month.

" 'It’s obvious Annakiya has a passion for children, especially the difficult ones that others seem to have given up on. This 15-year-old girl went through multiple placements and was rejected by everyone who is supposed to love and care for her,” said David and Sonya Sherman of Nashville, Tennessee, who nominated Sauda."

Read on here.